Bennett: Netanyahu should go home, I should be PM

Head of right-wing Yemina Party rips Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, intends to recommend himself to serve as prime minister

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of the right-wing Yemina Party said Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had failed the country in handling the coronavirus crisis and is convinced he will lead Israel after the March elections.

Naftali Bennett said that Netanyahu buckled under pressure from different political parties and interest groups, and as a result squandered a successful response to the first wave of coronavirus infections, crippling the economy due to lack of leadership.

“All sectors are suffering from a lack of courage. Politics is being placed before substance,” Bennett told Israel Army Radio, dismissing Netanyahu’s boasting that he was responsible for obtaining millions of doses of vaccines and asking rhetorically “will he also take credit for 3,300 deaths and the highest level of unemployment?”

Bennett rejected suggestions he might support a Netanyahu led government after the upcoming March 23 national election saying “[Netanyahu] has to go home is because he failed at the critical hour.”

“This time I say unequivocally – we will not recommend Netanyahu. We will recommend Bennett for prime minister,” he said, adding that he thinks the ongoing corruption trial of Netanyahu is not a factor.

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“It’s not about the trial, the thing is that lately he’s been dealing with other things. Is his conduct proper? No. Was there an effort on the part of the justice system to investigate him and his associates? Yes. But the reason he has to go home is because he failed at the critical hour,” Bennett said.

Following the national election held in March 2020, which did not produce a clear winner, Bennett, who served as Defense Minister and Education Minister in the previous Netanyahu-led coalition government, rejected an offer to join him again and instead sat in opposition in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

“My obsession is the State of Israel and not the prime minister, I always said before the election that I would recommend Netanyahu,” Bennett said in a later interview with 103FM Radio in Tel Aviv.

“This is the first time I say I will not recommend Netanyahu, I will recommend myself,” adding “[but] the public will decide.”

In an election poll published Friday by 103FM, Yemina currently has enough support to win 13 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while Likud would win 26, down from its current 35 seats. However, Netanyahu would not have enough coalition partners to gain a 61 seat majority needed.

The poll showed that a right-leaning coalition with either Bennett or breakaway Likud member Gideon Saar at the helm might muster 62 seats, if they can overcome ideological differences among the six parties that would be needed.

Saar’s New Hope party is currently polling 17 seats, but voters currently still prefer the incumbent prime minister rather than Saar or Bennett.

“I will decide to go with the government that has a better chance of controlling corona, rehabilitating the economy and uniting the people,” Bennett said.

“I appreciate Gideon [Saar] and think he can be a significant component in the government I will form with the help of God,” said Bennett, who was a successful high tech entrepreneur before entering politics. He dismissed Saar’s leadership abilities for a lack of business experience saying Saar’s party was full of politicians with no business experience.

“No one has set up a business, no one knows what cash flow is, no jobs have been created,” Bennett said. “We are ready to come and change world orders, to break monopolies … to do things that others are not ready to do on behalf of the citizens and it is time to give us the reins.”